Spiritual Love Languages

I LOVE YOU in many different languages
What’s your love language?


Love-languages are the ways in which we express and receive love. If you don’t yet know yours, I can recommend taking this fun quiz to find out! There are five love-languages, according to Gary Chapman:

  • quality time,
  • words of affirmation,
  • gift-giving,
  • physical touch and
  • acts of service.

These are all ways in which we can express love for others, but we will have a preference for one or two of these ‘languages’ over the others.  The language that we most naturally express love for others is usually the language that we also receive love from others.


When my husband and I first discovered this concept, we had a real ‘aha!’ moment. In my family, we had always expressed love for each other through quality time and words of affirmation. In Jon’s family, they expressed love for each other not through words but acts of service – anticipating the other’s need and meeting it.


Suddenly we understood why I was always wanting to go to restaurants and talk about feelings, and Jon was always asking me to do the ironing and make cups of tea for him. I started making cups of tea for him gladly, and Jon took me out to restaurants. All was happy: we were communicating love to one another in the language that the other person could receive it.


But then I got ill, and we had to learn to adapt. In the worst stages of the illness, I can’t really talk or think at all, or even understand what someone else is saying to me and I have to spend much of my time sleeping or resting. I am now rarely well enough to go out to a restaurant and chat. (Au revoir to the way we did quality time.)


Acts of service are now very tricky as well – I can’t even make cups of tea for Jon, and he has to do everything around the house for me. So bang goes ‘acts of service’ as a way of me communicating love to Jon.


Over the past few years, as we have slowly adapted to my illness, we have both had to learn new love languages. They are not our native tongue, but there is pleasure as well as hard work in learning new ways to love.


Sometimes we mourn for the loss of the long walks together, sharing our heart as we enjoyed the countryside, but now we talk art and photography and discuss the different ways we see the world. I have surrendered some of my feisty independence and learned to lean on Jon and love him for the ways in which he selflessly and silently serves. I have been helpless: I have needed him to carry me upstairs each day, to cook and clean, to wake the baby in the morning. I see the washing up done and I now listen in and hear his lovesong, sweet and clear.


I can no longer communicate with Jon in his preferred love-language of acts of service, but I can sit with him as he washes up and I can offer him these shy words of tribute; and that quality time, these words of affirmation can become a lovesong too.


And this makes me wonder, too, about my relationship with God. I have written here and here about my recent frustration in my relationship with God.

I know that my life is hidden with Christ in God, that my salvation is sure because of His death, that I am declared righteous and forgiven in His sight because og what He has done. I know this. But sometimes you can know that your husband loves you and still need to feel it. I am still married to Jesus, but I have not taken the trouble to adapt my love languages along with my illness.

The ways that I am accustomed to expressing and receiving love from God:

  • in-depth Bible study and theological lectures,
  • Christian conferences with engaging talks,
  • worshipping with modern songs with many other Christians,
  • playing the piano and singing worship songs at home,
  • thrashing out theological issues with like-minded believers –

all these extrovert, intellectual and musical ways that I connected with God as easily as my mother tongue have now been largely taken away.


I am wondering, with a little trepidation, whether I will need to let go of these ways of communicating with God and start looking at new ones. I don’t like silence and contemplation, and reading Julian of Norwich or looking at a candle for hours just makes my evangelical hackles rise. It would be the equivalent of attempting to learn Arabic or Cantonese. I’m just too cynical to be a mystic.


I need something that is a little more like Spanish or German – still strange to me, but with enough familiarity that I could begin to understand God’s love in that lexicon.


I am not sure yet what that is. Perhaps you could help?


Over to you:

  • What is your ‘love language’?
  • What are your ‘spiritual love languages’ – the ways that you express and receive love from God?

Linking with Joy in this journey for Life Unmasked, Emily at Imperfect Prose and Mary Beth at WIP Weds.

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63 Responses to Spiritual Love Languages

  1. Emma 7th November, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    You’re channelling us Tanya! My hubby and I have completely different love languages but finding this out made sense of a lot of awkward moments, (‘Look, I cleaned!’ ‘But I only wanted a Hug’ etcetc)…

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Kindred-spirit high-five!

  2. Mark Allman 7th November, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    In terms of needing to lean on others I wrote this on a friends blog just today:

    I never want the one I love to apologize for having to lean on me. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be deemed worthy to be leaned upon. I also love loving the ones I love through helping them through the rough and the hard. It makes me feel needed and wanted which I crave. It is easy to dance in the sunlight and on cloudless days; love manifest so strongly itself when the dancing is slow; under dark clouds and being buffeted by storms. I treasure that love most of all; the giving and the receiving of it.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      This is beautiful – thank you so much for sharing it.

  3. Mark Allman 7th November, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    My love language was quality time 11. Second was words 8 and then touch 7. Gifts was a 1. I really thought it was probably touch but I think I agree that it is quality time for I crave that with those I love.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      Interesting how it prompts us to think, isn’t it?

  4. Mark Allman 7th November, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    I think I get to see you worship God. You share your heart and you share your interaction with him here for all of us to share in. I see you worshiping God through your written word. I am thankful to follow along. The things you are able to do are born of love. I think above all God wants us to love. I see your love shining through even through the shadows of your limitations.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      Feeling a little bit teary. Thank you, Mark.

  5. Anna Wood 7th November, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Nice post! I read somewhere recently that every act is in some way a pray to God – so maybe the answer to one of your questions is not about what *else* you can do to replace what you can’t do at the moment – but to view the things that you are doing in a different way. For instance resting is caring for your body which is surely what God would want. Writing a blog is communicating your faith and your feelings – that is starting a conversation with God, and even just sitting looking at your garden and appreciating nature, is a praising God. Hope that helps!

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Thanks Anna!
      I think you’re right, particualrly in seeing the blog more as part of my relating to God. It definitely helps, but I tend to think of the blog as something I do for me, just to keep sane! Of course, the one doesn’t preclude the other…
      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment – much appreciated.

  6. Jareth Caelum 7th November, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I was so touched by your story, thank you so much for sharing it. I was very sick once. My body was so wracked with pain that all I could do was lay in bed and try not the scream. The worst part was that I knew Jesus was the great love of my life. I had no doubt that He loved me more than I loved Him. I knew He could heal me whenever I wanted, but He wasn’t stopping the pain. It broke my heart. I felt betrayed by God. Now I am a mystic. I love meditation and silence, but who can meditate when it feels like your body is being torn apart. So I also had to learn a new way to communicate with God. I yelled at Him like Job. I wrestled Him like Jacob. To my friends it seemed like I was losing my faith, but I knew we were just taking our relationship in a different direction. Eventually I got better. My relationship with God is much less innocent or naive than it had been, but my faith, hope, and love have all grown significantly. I don’t know much about your situation, but it sounds like a part of all this may be to force you to grow your relationship with Jesus in ways you never thought it would go. I will be praying for you and your husband.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      I LOVE this story – thank you!

      I’m a wrestler and a yeller. And you’re right – other Christians are prone to panicking (and I understand why they are – it is hard to truly know what is in another’s heart).

      Thank you so much for sharing this – I will treasure this one up.

    • Tanya 9th November, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. Kati Woronka 7th November, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Haha… I had a chuckle when you mentioned learning Arabic, because I did that! And yes, it was hard indeed. I think I’m a person who thrives in the exotic so whatever ideas I’d have might be a bit too out there. But I love what you’re saying in principle. We are essentially handed a specific set of ‘tools’ we can and should use to worship God and they are not always that which will resonate best. I’m still figuring this out but have appreciated the freedom that I’ve received from some of the more ‘mystic’-oriented Christians I’ve met to experiment with different things.

    • Tanya 8th November, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      Wow – I’m intrigued, Arabic, exoticness and mysticism! You sound really interesting! maybe I should be learning from you. 🙂

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